It snowed earlier this morning and lightly covered the sidewalks and streets. It continued spitting a little snow as I began my journey to mail an important document back to the States. The somewhat treacherous walk to the post office tired me some, so on my way back I stopped for a hot cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts to warm up and rest my weary bones. I ordered a regular medium-coffee with cream & sugar.
I had to wait for my coffee as the counter employee interrupted serving me to take the order of a young mother and her small daughter, about 4-years-old. The youngster gazed wide-eyed upon the large variety of donuts as her mother coached her to make a choice. The choice of what kind of donuts to eat bedazzled the youngster and hindered her attempt to decide. The mother patiently interacted with her child until she pointed to her first choice; then the little one changed her mind and pointed to some chocolate covered, cake donuts with sprinkles; and then she changed her mind again & pointed to a cream filled, long john. In the meantime I continued to wait for my cup of coffee. Unaware of my growing impatience the counter employee continued her devotion to observing the dilemma between the mother & child as to what donuts the 4-year-old might point to next. In my mind I thought it would show good time management skills for the counter girl to serve me my cup of coffee during the little girl’s hunt for her donuts. “Have patience,” I reminded myself as I waited a little longer. The words, “This too shall pass,” sarcastically came to my mind.
Believing that all good things come to those who wait, I received my medium size cup of regular coffee upon payment of 2200 won, or $1.57 in American money. I took my seat again and continued observing the customers as they came in for their drinks and donuts. All of the customers, while I was there, ordered their drinks and donuts to go. Two particular customer caught my attention. By their interaction with one another and their age difference, I supposed them to be a mother and her teenage son. The mother displayed a great interest and delight in her son’s choice of donuts and drink. If I didn’t know better, It appeared her son was auditioning for one of the most important roles of his life, and she viewed it as her life’s work to see that he didn’t fail at it. She coached him superbly through every skill related to the all important task of selecting the right donuts and drink. No doubt he was cramming for his final exams into the University of Wright Choices. With great interest and enthusiasm she monitored his choices and coached him in assuring a successful selection of drink & donuts. Bobby Knight, during the great Indiana Hoosiers’ victory over the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA Championship game of 1976, couldn’t have done a better coaching job than she. All turned out well except the teenager left his baseball hat at the donut shop. The counter girl saved it for him. All is well that ends well?
My observation at Dunkin Donuts made a little more sense to me by the knowledge I picked up first hand watching the relationship between my Korean wife and our oldest son. During more than several arguments over child rearing practices, my wife explained to me that if we raised our oldest son correctly, then the two younger children would follow. Basically, I agreed with her, but I challenged her with the fact that ever so often an otherwise nice family produced what is called the black sheep of the family, the one child who goes astray despite all the parents’ wonderful parenting skills and moral teachings. I pointed out that the black sheep phenomenon occurred despite the fact that the oldest son and all the other children turned out well. She tactfully said that things like that happen every once in a while and that’s life. I generally agreed with her on that point as well. By arguing I do think I encouraged a modicum of counterbalance to my wife’s strong tendency to accept the birth right model of child rearing as gospel. I confess proudly that she did a great job of raising our three children, with my supervision, of course. Anyway, our oldest boy received plenty of attention, not only from his mom and me, but from his American grandparents.
The interesting thing about us mortal humans, with all our imperfections forever penned to our nature, is the fact that our goodness and love, no matter how genuine and perfected, always fall far short of perfection. With that in mind, our love & good works produce unintended consequences that often undermine our love. If I do my child’s math homework because I love him/her, then I deprive my child of the skill necessary to succeed in solving the present math problems and the possibility of reaching his/her potential of solving more difficult ones later. This type of love may feel good, but it doesn’t measure up to true love. On the other hand, to pressure a child with low math ability to try and resolve the dilemma of unifying the macro and micro theories of the universe into a single theory is extremely unfair and unloving, though his parents and mentors may think they’re displaying love and discipline.
What are we to do? I suppose we’re living in a day when too many of us want it all. It’s too bad we can’t have it all, but there’s not enough of everything available in our imperfect world to have it all; and even if it were possible, a lot of us would lose it, some sooner than others. All I can say as a father and grandfather is that it’s not easy to assess our children’s talent and to admit other children, maybe our friend’s children, are smarter, can jump higher, are capable of making better grades, or are more highly esteemed than ours, and still recognize how blessed we are by our own children despite their imperfections. We parents can ameliorate this situation by starting to accept ourselves and admit our own limitations, then humbly accept our children’s limitations. Don’t worry about expecting too little from your children, it will never happen to parents who are expecting their children to succeed. Acceptance goes a long way in forming a special relationship that enhances success. garland dale
The picture above is my special grandbaby, my oldest son’s boy.